The toddler years are tough. Toddlers are loud, messy, and selfish. I was no exception to this stereotype growing up. After becoming a mom, I realized my poor mama! Why is it that hindsight is 20/20? I wish it wasn’t.
As I now raise my little circus of monkeys, I realize in hindsight that my mom was truly a superhero. Especially on those hard parenting days. You know the ones. Marked with spilled milk, crumbs, tears (not always from the children), and NOISE. Sometimes you work all day and feel like you have accomplished nothing. If I feel this way, I often wonder how on Earth my single mom made it through the toddler years with her and I both in one piece.
Not only was she a single mom when I was young, she was a working two jobs, college student single mom. I can’t even begin to wrap my head around this. I can barely manage to squeeze in a shower most days, much less maintain straight As, work outside the home and raise a kid. She just amazes me when I stop and think about those tough years for her. At the time, I didn’t even realize, much less thank her, for all the sacrificing, exhaustion and stress I’m sure I added to her heavy plate. That’s why they say hindsight is 20/20. It wasn’t until I became and adult, and really until a became a parent, that I began to see the hard path she had to travel when I was young.
Being a mom is a thankless job. Kids are selfish. I was selfish. I had no idea what it meant back then to see my mom go off to work, take care of me, put me to bed, and THEN be a college student.
Back then, I didn’t know any different. I never saw what went on backstage to have that wonderful childhood. When I think of my childhood, I have only great memories, but I realize now, there was so much she was doing for me that I never saw or appreciated back then. What I remember is dancing around in our apartment with her and a little radio. I think about all the giggles we had when she told silly jokes. I remember the hugs and the kisses before school. What I see in those memories is fun, love and laughter, not that our apartment lacked the finer things. Does she see all the good when she thinks back on that time? I hope so, but I fear she remembers the hard days and the struggles too. The part I didn’t notice.
This is motherhood, right? Thankless. Selfless. Hard. But also so full of joy and overwhelming love that it makes all the hard times so worth it. It took me all these years and becoming a mom to realize just how amazingly strong my Mama was back then (and still is today). She taught me so much by leading by example. I knew when I became a mother, that I had huge shoes to fill if I wanted to be even half the mother she is. I’m starting to see now all the times she put me before herself.
Things I realized about my mom after becoming a mom…
- Making memories with your kids is better than any toy you can buy. I have a hard time picturing the toys I had as a young child, although I’m sure I had some. When I think back, I see my mom. I see us together, and none of those smile invoking memories involve the “things” it’s so easy to clutter our lives with as a parent.
- Mom guilt is real. My mom was a working mom, and I was a daycare kid. I am a stay-at-home mom. My kids are rarely away from my side, but that doesn’t mean I’ve escaped the nasty black hole of mom guilt. No matter if you’re a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, mom guilt is real. It haunts us all. We are all hard on ourselves. Too hard. But, we are all doing the best we can. I realize now that my mom felt the guilt just like I do now, even though our situation was much different at this stage of motherhood.
- Kids are resilient. As thick as I sometimes lay the mom guilt on myself, my kids bounce back way faster than I give them credit for. I don’t remember a single day of daycare, but I’m sure my days of being there caused my mom an enormous amount of guilt at the time. Kids don’t remember the bad days like we fear they will. We aren’t ruining them when we make mistakes. What I do remember is that my mom was present for me. I remind myself this, when mom guilt creeps into my life.
- She set boundaries to protect me, not to ruin my life. As I set boundaries for my own kids, I realize that with every rule a mom has to set for her kids, there is a well thought out reason behind it.
- You have to let kids fail sometimes so they learn the lesson. She sat back and let me make mistakes. Even when it broke her heart, and then helped me pick up the pieces and learn from them.
- How hurtful the words “I hate you” sound coming from your child. The first time my son told me he hated me, I called my mom and apologized for saying this to her in my teen years. Then, they were just words to me. I didn’t mean them. I assured myself she knew that. But until now, I didn’t realized just how deep that dagger hits in a mother’s heart.
- Your baby will always be your baby. My mom still mothers me, and I still need that. I still receive phone calls to inform me that a cold front is coming, and tells me I should throw a sweater in my car. She can somehow decode my “I’m fine” over the phone to mean “I’m actually drowning over here,” and she shows up to help without being asked. She corrects me when I’m wrong, celebrates my successes, and reassures me when I’m scared. To this day, she still packs snacks for me when we’re together.